Update: Last Monday, my precious grandma at 102.5 went home to be with the Lord. She was great company or more so my spunky “girlfriend” and one of the special examples in my life of what it meant to trust God while still keeping it so very real. She was my safe space, always available (literally because she didn’t go out much) and someone who taught me that you can lose teeth, gray your hair, use a walker and yet be extremely beautiful at the same time. Six years ago, I wrote this post and after loving on Mama even to her last day, I can say with full confidence that it was SUCH an honor to send her off. She was blessed, but I have been blessed even more. This one’s for you Mama and for the many others who I hope will get a similar sendoff like yours.
Some of you may wonder why I talk about my grandparents so much. There are other people in the world right?
My grandpa died two years ago and although he was really grumpy to most people, I loved him a lot. Just like I absolutely LOVE my grandma. When I was young, my grandma used to hold me in our rocking chair whenever I cried. She’d wipe my tears and tell me she wouldn’t love me anymore if I kept crying. But she continued to hold me and held me tight. My grandpa, he’d pick me up after school in the elementary years. Then, in high school, he’d meet me as I walked home from school and would hand me something heavy he bought from the grocery store (usually milk). And we would walk home together. It wasn’t everyday, but my grandpa and I had a good amount of bonding time in my 20+ years with him. We were even housemates for most of my life. My grandparents and I. We were close. Period.
I love them a lot, but there were many times I hated them too. Mostly my grandpa because he was angry at times. Sometimes, it was just too close.
They were like hawks hovering over me much of time. Anytime I turned onto my street whether walking or driving, they would spot me immediately. Forget the old eyes. Before I even had time to gain composure in the car or take in a few “Be calm, Bel” breaths, the front door was open as they awaited my homecoming. They love(d) me so much. But I couldn’t handle all the attention because day in and day out, they were always waiting and looking for me. I felt anger, guilt, sometimes hate. But the love always managed to be greater.
I don’t remember when, but sometime during my first few years of working in the senior care field, I had an epiphany that made me care for my grandparents differently and much more. Let me explain.
Before someone leaves their home to move elsewhere, it’s customary to have a send off. If noone sends you off, I think you’d probably feel pretty unloved and alone. If you want to learn how to organize a proper sendoff, meet my oldest sister and brother-in-law. When friends leave the DC area for work, marriage, new things, etc, they often have dinner parties to celebrate the time their friend spent here. There’s food and they gather to make their friends feel special. They help their friends move on to the next place. If you don’t make friends in Kalamazoo (is that a place?) at least you know you still have friends back at home, right? Venturing off seems less scary when you know you have people who love you.
I sometimes wondered why I had to “deal” and live with my grandparents for so long (birth until marriage). My life was different than others my age and while I loved them, my grandparents’ presence sometimes felt so inconvenient and burdensome. What I realized though was that my grandparents, just like yours, need a proper send off before they leave AKA die. They need to know they are “oh so loved”. They really do. And most elderly people get nothing. In fact, many people are just waiting for them to leave. NO WONDER we have so much depression in the elderly. Your grandparents and your older parents. They really really need a send off. And they really need it because their next place can be scary. Even if they know where they’re going. And especially if they don’t. Just like stress can cause pimples, spiritual and emotional fear at the end of life can cause physical not to mention horrible spiritual and emotional pain.
Consider yourself assigned to walk your grandparents or the elderly you know to the gate of heaven. Just over the past few years, I began to look at my grandparents differently because I realized that God has given me a divine honor, a really noble purpose, to accompany and care for my grandparents as they approach heaven. My purpose is to send them off well. To love them so so so much. To smile at them whenever they glance over. To kiss them. And hug them really tight. To make them feel less like a burden even if serving them is inconvenient. To intentionally call them to see how they’re doing. To find out what’s on their mind. And just to make them feel extra extra special. Now that’s what I call a PROPER sendoff. Would you join me?